There was moment in both our Disney adventures where we had to overcome the sadness of not being able to be princesses. This is because they don’t let any cultural exchange (ICP) participants play face characters #letusbefacecharacters. After the initial depression wore off and I spent a few hours of my time (I’ll never get back) researching a way to get around this rule, I gave in and tried to figure out what else I wanted to do. It was time to decide was Disney role I was going to play!
There are a wide range of roles that are available to participants in the program. When you get an interview for the cultural exchange (ICP) program you are asked to give your preference on each individual role. So you have to decide which roles you really want, would be willing to do and are just plain saying no to. If you are accepted then you will be placed in a role that is great for you.
I remember being so nervous and wanting to get into the program more than anything so I put that I’d be willing to do ANYTHING. This was even though I honestly didn’t want to be custodial or housekeeping but I would have made the best of it. This was my strategy, though some people only choose the roles they really want. It is a personal choice.
In the interview you will also tell the interviewer your top three choices. I think this was the hardest decision for me, I had to choose between roles that I REALLY wanted to do and roles that I knew I was qualified for. It’s a nerve wracking experience because you don’t know what will land you the job.
From personal experience put a mix of things you have done before and things you want to learn to do. This means that if you have worked at a store before, putting one of your top choices as Merchandise is a sure thing. The same thing goes for food and beverage. On the other hand, most people have no prior experience as a character attendant before so it’s more than A-OK to rank first as long as you have a reason why you’d love to do that role. The interviewers want to see how you’d fit into that role.
Roles Available to Cultural Exchange (ICP) Participants:
Lifeguarding at Walt Disney World means you get to spend your time by the pool while still getting the Disney Experience! It is a fantastic way to stay fit, as you’re constantly walking, standing and swimming. You get all your lifeguard training done during your first week at WDW and during your program have mandatory refreshers and in-services. The in-services are awesome because they are an extremely fun way to get a workout in while basically playing in the pool with your co-workers! WIN WIN WIN!
Where you might work: Most likely at a WDW Resort such as the Polynesian or Port Orleans. I’ve never heard of an international participant working at a Water Park because they aren’t there long enough.
Pros: Sun tans, pool time! Do I need to say anything else? One of the best parts of this role is how closely you work with and rely on your coworkers. So if you want to build great friendships this is an awesome role. Also depending on your placement you might have scheduled time where you jump in the water and play games with the kids, helping out the rec team.
Cons: You have to be on you A-Game ALL THE TIME. This is a high stress role almost all the time in the summer because you have to make sure that no one drowns. Even if there is only a few people in the pool. Jumping in to save children you got a little too deep is a constant, so always be prepared to get drenched.
Who should pick this role: PEOPLE WHO CAN SWIM! You have to complete a, albeit easy, swim test or you’ll be reassigned. You also have to have good concentration and the ability to take the role seriously.
Do you dream of being the integral part of a child’s magical experience in Disney? This is the role for you! Character performers are “friends with” (they perform as them) specific costumed characters (not face characters though so not princes, princesses, evil step-sisters…etc). This role is fun and you spend your days dressing up in costumes and interacting with people. You portray people’s favourite characters and take photos with them. You can also perform in parades, shows and at character dining establishments.
Where you might work: This isn’t a placement specific role, instead it is a character specific role so…
Who you might work as: Being a character performer is specific to costume sizes, and more than that is height. You have to be the right height to play each character. So this role can be impossible to get if you don’t fit into one of the height ranges they are looking for.
Example Height Ranges for this role:
3’11”-4’6″- Ewok, Huey, Dewey and Louie!
4’6”- 4’10” is a combination of Donald and Daisy, aka Duck- Height. Also Stitch!
4’8”-5’2” is mouse-height aka Mickey, Minnie.
5’2″- 5’4″- the right height for Pooh, Gus Gus, Chip and Dale
5’5″- Is one of the harder height categories but can be Kanga
5’6″-5’8″ is Pluto, Rafiki, Flick and Buzz Lightyear
5’7″- 5’9″ is Eeyore
5’10”-6’0″ is Tigger and Green Army Men
At 6’0″ and above you get into Goofy, Beast, Captain Hook, Genie and Jafar area.
If you’re keeping track your easiest way to get a character performer role is if you are under 5’4” or over 6’0” but you can still get a role at any height!
Pros: You’re a character performer! Enough said.
Cons: It’s hot. You can get injured if guests go crazy, there have been many reports of adults picking up a small Minnie or Mickey and giving them whiplash from the weight of their costume.
Who should do this role: People who have previous performing experience or don’t and are just outgoing!
So you don’t want to be stuck in a hot suit all day in the 40 degree Florida heat but you still want to experience the magical experience that is a kid meeting their favourite character? This is the role for you! You get to spend your time taking photos, monitoring the character you are with and making sure everything goes smoothly as people meet the character. You also have to help characters with their costumes, answer questions and make sure you keep everything organized.
Pros: You get to be an integral part of the magic! You personally get to talk to and interact with the kids and adults meeting their favourite characters. It doesn’t get more magical than this role (honestly, it’s the best role or so I’ve heard/imagine).
Cons: You have to deal with some pushy and rude people. Especially when you have to close the character’s line before everyone can meet them.
Who should do this role: Someone who loves smiling, interacting with people, and is extremely outgoing and organized!
Many students and young adults applying for this program have worked at a grocery store, clothing store…any type of store before applying. The thing with Disney merch roles is they are different than the real world, because Disney stores are more than just checking people out at the till. You get to constantly create magical moments and see the joy on kids faces as you help them pick out the best Minnie Mouse for them in the happiest place on Earth. You can also work in some awesome locations and wear really cute costumes.
Where you might work: Downtown Disney, Mainstreet USA, or if you’re lucky—right in the Castle at the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique! There are so many speciality stores that sell cool things and experiences!
Pros: It is a fairly self explanatory and easy role and you can adapt and learn quickly so you can jump into it quickly. You get to constantly interact with guests. Also for most locations you can pick up shifts anywhere, unless you are in a speciality store.
Cons: Honestly, it can get repetitive some times and in the end you are still working at a store.
Who should pick this role: People who love to constantly interact with guests! Also people who are good with numbers (cash handling) and are able to find the perfect thing for a guest, it doesn’t get much more satisfying than that!
Quick Service Food and Beverage:
Quick Service is a fast pace, high intensity role where you will meet and interact with lots of guests. You get to take orders, make food, buss tables and do anything else.
Where you might work: Quick Service might be considered exactly like any other fast food restaurant. Except in Disney you get to work at awesome places. You might run a food cart on Mainstreet or be placed at Be our Guest Quick Service.
Pros: Awesome costumes and placements in a fun filled guest interactive role
Cons: This role requires a lot of standing and sometimes dealing with unhappy guests.
Who should do this role: It’s a great role for people who love food and customer service. Also perfect for people who have worked in food before because it will be easy to get a handle on everything.
Full Service Food and Beverage:
This is a hosting roll at any of the full service restaurants. So you’ll seat people, handle cash, roll napkins, set tables. High paced, and fun work environments.
Where you might work: Amazing themed restaurants like Ohana, or fabulous locations like in the Castle at Cinderella’s Royal Table (wow)
Pros: Awesome costumes and the chance to work in one of the amazing full service restaurants
Cons: Can get repetitive
Who should do this role: Same as Quick Service
As a backstage role you play a crucial part in cast member experience. You also have the opportunity to make sure characters are dressed to their best. Mickey Mouse alone has 290 costumes! You take costumes from location to location and operate laundry equipment. But you also have the opportunity to make sure all costumes are up to standards and work on your sewing skills.
Pros: You don’t have to deal with unhappy guests. You get to make sure everyone is dressed to their absolute best.
Cons: You do a lot of laundry… take that how you will.
Who should do this role: If you love sewing, costumes and fashion then you’re sure to love spending your time working backstage with all the A-MA-ZING costumes. It is perfect for fashion and merchandising majors to add a great experience to your resume.
Mousekeeping is another partially backstage role is housekeeping. You don’t really deal with guests except if they call housekeeping for more towels…etc. Your main job is to make sure their room and experience is impeccable by making them feel right at home. Obviously you’ll spend a lot of time cleaning, but one of the best parts of this role is getting to make small magical moments for the guests like making animals with the towels will be a highlight of anyone’s return to their room.
Where you might work: Any of the WDW Resorts!
Pros: Again you don’t have to deal with customers all the time. Also there isn’t anything much better than seeing the end result of your job, cleaning is quite satisfying that way. Also you have pretty standard, set hours and work 8 hours a day at a normal 7-3 or 8-4.
Cons: This is a role that requires a lot of hard manual labour. It isn’t an easy job, you will be working hard all day.
Who should do this role: This is honestly a great job for anyone, most people can do it and you can have a lot of fun with it in the right mindset.
This is one of the most underrated positions. Though you have to clean bathrooms, toilets and streets, it is apparently one of the most amazing and fun roles. Besides keeping everything clean, you get to create water art on the hot streets, enjoy interacting with guests and work with a team of upbeat people.
Where you might work: A resort or park, basically anywhere!
Pros: The ability to interact with guests, make parks safe and clean and spend time outdoors!
Cons: You have to clean.
Who should do this role: Again, like Mousekeeping this is honestly a great job for anyone
At WDW there is so much more to do than visit the four parks. There are other recreational things like resort activities, waterparks and water activities. With so much to do this role gives you the opportunity to experience something different.
Where you might work: Canoe Rentals at Fort Wilderness, the Watersport Center at the Contemporary or one of the pristine golf courses… the possibilities are endless.
Pros: Most roles are outside and active!
Cons: There may be slow periods, and renting equipment may become repetitive.
Who should do this role: Anyone who loves sports and recreation!
Carrying and handling luggage, assisting guests with inquiries and generally helping out with check ins and outs at resorts. Everyone who I’ve seen in this role looks like they are having a blast. You also get to see people at their best and mot exciting, when they are arriving at WDW.
Where you might work: Any of the great resorts, obviously.
Pros: You stay busy, and have a good amount of guest interaction
Cons: Manual Labour
Who should do this role: Perfect for really anyone and who likes working in a team and is independent.
Last, but definitely NOT least is operations. When people think of working at Disney World they think of the wonderfully nostalgic and exhilarating rides. The ability to put on a costume and guide people through the experience that is not only riding the attraction but from the moment they enter the line. Some of the waiting lines are the best part of the attraction, I’m looking at you Test Track.
Where you might work: The brilliance that is the Haunted Mansion (with the best costume) or the exhilaration of Expedition Everest as you guide the guests through base camp in Nepal
Pros: You get to work right in the middle of the magic, watching excited guests go through the amazing attractions Disney has to offer. I haven’t met anyone who didn’t like this role.
Cons: Can get repetitive helping guests onto the rides and doing exactly the same thing every day.
Who should do this role: Anyone who wants a super Disney Experience.
There are so many great roles, and even if you don’t get the one you exactly want Disney casting knows where you should be. Anywhere you end up, you will have a fabulous time!